RAZORED ZEN

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Journaling

I tried off and on to keep a journal for years before I finally started one that I was able to keep going. My original journal concept was basically a diary. I think that’s why it didn’t work. What could I say about my day to day life? I worked; I drank beer; I went to school, or later taught school. Certainly, there were personal relationships I could have recorded. But mostly I was too busy living those relationships to write a whole lot about them.

It wasn’t until August, 1993 that I started a journal that took. It began out of a wish to document my commitment to writing. Several times I’d made statements that I would work on some writing related task every day. But I often fell well short of that goal.  I started a journal to record specifically what I was doing in writing each day, and I reread it each week so I could see those days I hadn’t done what I promised to do. Essentially, it was a way to guilt myself into doing something writing related each day.

The first couple of years consisted largely of just these kinds of entries. Here’s a typical example from 1993:
 August 4. Did about 6 and a half hours on the non-fiction guidebook, editing, rewriting, printing, doing the index, etc. Did about a half hour on fiction, on "Lookadder." Wrote well.

Occasionally, I added a note about something I was reading:
August 9--Monday. Did about 2 and a half hours. Made good progress on Mythules 1. Did weak work on "Wanting the Mouth of a Lover." Read a powerful story by Dean Koontz called "Twilight of the Dawn."

Only the biggest of non-writing events made it into the journal:
August 10. Did about 1 hour, 2 paragraphs on "Wanting the Mouth of a Lover." Not much progress. Josh choked on a grape in the evening. He threw it up and caught it in his mouth, and it got lodged in his throat. He had coughed it up again before either Mary or I reached him, but it scared him. It sacred us too. Shook me up.

Even on my birthday, I wrote:
October 14. My birthday. Did a little work on "Cold in the Light."

And when I could only do school work, I noted that:
October 15. No writing. Graded tests.

And when I was being lazy, I didn’t let myself escape without some guilting.
May 20. No work today. I'm being lazy.

Over time, I found myself adding more and more non-writing information. My entries these days tend to be a lot longer, although I still record everything writing related that I do. This past ten days, for various reasons, I’ve actually been going back and reading my older journal entries. It’s been a bit of a discovery process. I’ll talk about that in a second post.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015

March, You Suck!

Been a very rough month at work. Grading, mentoring students, and committee work. I'm also teaching the Writing in Psychology class, which is by far the heaviest work-load of any of my classes. I've only taken 2 days completely off during March. My mood hasn't been the best either, and though I almost never have trouble sleeping, I've had that problem for much of the last week.

Thank goodness we've now made it to Spring Break. I'll be off next week, except for dealing with the research committee and getting tests ready for the week after. Still, I'll have some time to relax and I've been pleading for it like a beaten boxer pleads for the bell to ring closure on the last round. We are going to have to see about getting Lana a different car as well, though. Hers has broken down three times in the last three weeks, and that has added to the stress.

I've written nothing except one unfinished scene about a boxer. I haven't submitted anything from the stuff I have done, and haven't even cleaned out my emails for over a month. I've missed my writing group three of the four weeks in March. I've been a pretty bad blogger for most of March as well. I've not posted very often and have had to simply mark all posts as read a few times in Feedly because I didn't have the energy to go through blogs. I should be able to start making rounds again, and I'm hoping to get some stories sent out as well as, maybe, write some new stuff.

This morning the sun is shining and its nice and cool outside. I'm going to start my day with a walk. Outside, oh how I've missed you!

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Boxer

Been several weeks since I've had time to do any of my own writing. After my Sunday off, the work piled on again until I was barely keeping my head above water. Now it's the weekend and I can finally breathe again. I did a bit on a scene about a boxer that came to me. I don't know where it will go, if it goes anywhere. But I've copied the opening part of the scene below.

THE BOXER

The boxer sits on his stool in the corner of the ring. He sits hunched over, eyes closed. He can’t hear the crowd, though they must be near. All that his ears register is the thunder-boom of his own heart and the rasp in his throat.

The boxer’s arms lie heavy across his legs, and the legs tremble as if from the weight. He wants the shaking to stop but the legs are past the point of listening to such commands. He thinks about water then, and wonders for a moment where his manager is. Those thoughts soon fade to be replaced by more important ones.  

How long until the bell sounds again? How long until I have to get up? Again.

It can be only seconds now. The interlude between rounds isn’t long. It’s never long enough. He wishes the bell would never sound, that he could sit here until time itself turned to amber around him. That boon is not to be his.

The bell rings.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

A Day Off

I finally had a day off on Sunday. Everything that absolutely had to be done was done. It's been almost three weeks since I had more than an hour or two to call my own. I slept in till a little after 9:00. What an incredible pleasure. Lana was up before me, which is somewhat unusual, and not long after I got up she was in the mood for breakfast and made bacon and eggs and toast while I set up the table and chairs on the deck.

We also hadn't seen the sun much for the past week, but it was out Sunday and the yard was drying up after a week of rain. The temperature was perfect. We ate leisurely and watched the birds making their own breakfast at our feeders--Cardinals, Blue Jays, Doves, Chipping Sparrows, Goldfinches, Brown Thrashers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Wrens, Chickadees, Titmice. The only negative was that there were still too many human sounds in the neighborhood. Cars going by, an AC running, and a party on the next street over with many screaming children. I didn't let that bother me too much.

Later I played around on the computer but the electricity went out. If I'd had work to do I would have been angry and frustrated, but without any immediate demands on my time I, instead, had a nice nap. After that I had a walk around the neighborhood. I thought about writing, but in the end I didn't do any. I just couldn't bear the thought of anything that seemed like work. I read instead and played a little bit of a video game when the electricity came back on. I did help Lana wash the dishes, which was the closest I came to work all day.

We had some leftover spaghetti and Lana put some shrimp and Alfredo sauce with it for supper. We ate on the deck again and it was much quieter. I could hear frogs instead of human noises. It was growing pretty dark by then and most of the birds that came to the feeders were Cardinals. There were probably at least thirty of them, although they moved about so much it was hard to count.

Finally, a little reading and then we watched The Walking Dead. By 10:20 I was in bed, not looking forward to the heavy week ahead. I get another set of papers in my writing class today (Monday) so I will be grading a lot in the next few days. A big surge in committee work is coming up too. Maybe the thought of next Sunday will keep me going. I hope so.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fat Quiz: Not What You Think

Over the past week, I’ve been talking a lot to my nonfiction writing class about “wordiness,” and about the need to make every word count.  Today I’m giving them an in-class quiz that will ask them to rewrite wordy sentences. The majority of that quiz is copied below. These are examples taken from actual papers handed in for my classes over the years. I often refer to excess words in sentences as "fat." Thus you have the title of this post.

FAT QUIZ:  Cut the fat and/or excess words from the sentences below:

1. In our everyday lives we are always associating things with one another. For example; we study to get a better grade or we brush our teeth daily to have healthy teeth. In our daily lives we do not even realize that we are always using associative learning.

2. All this is saying is that the child may be off-putting in social surroundings, which could mean making friends for them will be harder than it is for others.

3. In many recent years, scientists have noticed a number of rare gene changes, or mutations, associated with autism.

4. In order to discover the uniformity of the human psyche I must descend into the very foundations of consciousness. 

5. In the article "Mindful Parenting Decreases Aggression, Noncompliance, and Self-Injury in Children with Autism” parents were trained on mindfulness practices and participated in the program for fifty-two weeks with their children affected by autism.

6. Watson came up with an experiment that would allow him to condition fear in little Albert by presenting a rat.

7. The reason he chose salivation was because a new method of measuring salivation using a fistula was just put in the laboratory.

8. In fact, they may live very normal lives.

9. The explanation for this is that in order to participate in lucid dreaming a person must pay close attention to the details of their dream, and therefore must live in the present moment.

Note: Other than the wordiness, most of these aren’t too bad. I could easily give examples of far worse writing from student papers. Below is what I think may be the worst sentence ever handed in to me.

“Evolution although well documented and well supported yet what one should consider is if God created everything in eternity (which one can not really fathom just like the concept of deep time) it is safe to assume that all living things even though things seem to evolve naturally over a long period of time they all was created in eternity the human mind just need time to see it transpire.”

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Friday, March 06, 2015

Reading Jam on I-1

I know that many of you tend to read several books at once. I do as well. I tend to do 3: 1 at work during lunch hour, and 2 at home. I'm usually able to keep the three moving relatively well but this week I've hit a major book jam and seem to be getting nowhere on anything. I started 4 books, and I'm enjoying them all. But this week involved major grading work at school, and an unexpected flood of research reports to evaluate. It's hard to make progress on 4 different books when you get to read maybe 15 pages a day. I'm hoping to complete my mid-terms this weekend and get back into some reading. Fortunately in one way, and unfortunately in another, I've already seen nearly half a dozen new books published this week that I'd like to read. That's not counting the hundreds and hundreds on my shelves already that are waiting their turn.

As for what I'm reading. Here they are:

1. How The West Was Written, Volume 2, by Ron Scheer. This is a nicely researched book on the history of western fiction. This volume one covers 1907 to 1915. This is not a book you sit down and read straight through. You want to take time to study the various sections on writers such as O' Henry and Clarence Mulford.

2. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair. One of those classics I should have read long ago. Generally slow but interesting. 

3. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. I'm enjoying the writing in this one but I really dislike most of the characters. That may be why I'm reading it slowly. 

4. You are Now Less Dumb, by David McRaney. Lana read passages of this to me and I thought the guy was very insightful so now I'm giving it a try. So far, very good.

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